Sunday, February 7, 2016

Better Questions

Well week three of explore math twitter blogosphere. And I am late. Anyhow.......

Here is my better question that I like to explore with my students:
"What are the criteria for a good question?"

I do this lesson with my grade 10 applied students every semester. I have written about the details of this lesson which are here.

Here are the posters over the years that have come out of this activity.

Lots of criteria that have shown up over the years.

Co-Creating criteria for what makes a good question with your class, early in the course, can cause your students to ask better questions throughout your course.

My Favourite - Lesson study


As part of the 2016 Blogging Initiative Week two titled My Favorite I am going to blog about lesson study. I have been fortunate enough to be involved in a cross curricular weekly lesson study. YES YOU READ THAT RIGHT! Of course I am weeks behind on the blogging initiative.

Every week for the past 4 years I have been either co-planning a lesson with other colleagues in my school or I have been observing a lesson that we have co-planned. What our group has done is take a half day one week to plan a lesson and then a half day the next week to observe the lesson. We are usually 6 teachers plus our principal. So over 12 weeks everyone will have taught a lesson in their course. We will do this twice a year.

It has not been the same 6 people over the 4 years. The principal and I have been the constants but over the four years we have co-planned with : 2 english teachers, 2 math teachers, a special education teacher, 2 social science teachers, 3 science teachers and a physical education teacher. Our team consists of 6 people who are teaching our 40 most at risk students in our school. Basically if you are teaching an applied level course you are invited to join us-some take the opportunity, some don't, some take the opportunity for a while and then opt out. We target our most at risk students.

As a side note we have many groups of teachers and administrators join us to learn about lesson study in our school. We welcome anyone who wants to grow with us and learn about the process.

What people don't like.
I hear this all the time, "I just can't afford to be out of my class this much."
My response "How can you not afford it? Your classroom will become a different place-a place your not familiar with. Your instructional practices will be challenged and will probably change as a result. Your belief in what students can do will change. You need to try this!"
Of course lots of people think I am full of it. But that is OK. I know how far I have come and I can give much of the credit to the lesson study process.

A little background.
Our lesson study is funded by the ministry of education in Ontario with the understanding that we will be targeting instructional strategies in the classrooms of our 40 weakest students. We track these students throughout the semester to see if there is improvement in achievement, attendance, and mindset. We are trying to shift them at least one level up R ~~> 1, 1 ~~> 2, 2 ~~> 3 and 3 ~~> 4.
Over the 4 years we have examined questioning, accountable talk (self-verbalization), meta-cognitive skills, interleaving and spaced practice and reciprocal teaching. Our major focus has been accountable talk - we try to design lessons where we will see students on task talking about the problem or topic at hand.

How does it work at our school?
We meet as a team early in the semester to set all the dates and the order of the teachers executing the lessons. Once all the dates are set we do an initial assessment of the students in all our classes so that we have an achievement level at the start of the semester. Then we start the lesson studies. The first teacher comes to the table with an idea and then we put 7 heads on it and try to make it fit what we are trying to look at. And that varies depending on where we are at. I have seen us do three or four lessons in a row looking at the same thing as a thread. For example - the influence of peers on student thinking. The lesson is designed in half a day. It usually comes together by the end of the three hours. However quite often it requires quite a bit of homework for the delivering teacher as the lesson set ups are sometimes quite intricate. Usually the delivering teacher is left to this on their own - which is a negative of the way the process works at our school. NOTE: Recently we planned a lesson in one period and set up the room as a team in the second period to be executed the next morning. On the positive side this had a great team feel to it. On the negative side the lesson was kind of pre-packaged and all members did not really get input. Thoughts?

The following week we all observe the lesson and document student learning. Dates are picked so that this falls in the first period in the morning or afternoon and the second period is the debrief process.

My wife @ErinOGrady10 wrote a hand book on lesson study for her principals course as she was involved in the same process at her school at the same time. This handbook does a much better job of explaining the lesson study process than my short description.
You can access that here.

Links to lessons that were co-planned in lesson study that I taught.
WODB Part 1
WODB Part 2
WODB Part 3
A Ball Roll Race
Open Strategy Cup Stacking
Card Tossing
Preparing for MFM2P summative
Snowballing Good Questions

What can you do?
Find two or three teachers who are interested in coplanning some lessons. Ask your principal for funding (heck invite your principal). Push each other out of your comfort zones. Try something different.

If you can't get funding co-plan a lesson with someone in your school and find a way to observe each other. Watch and listen to the students.

Try it. It might be your favourite!